Category Archives: #fluent

Five Secrets to Becoming Fluent in Spanish

I started learning Spanish at the age of 48, and 4 years later I passed the B1 intermediate level DELE exam administered by the Cervantes Institute of Spain. (The DELE exam is a standardized test of Spanish language proficiency that is taken in 900 certified examination centers in more than 100 countries around the world). Now I am at the high intermediate level, and when I pass the C1 exam I will be considered an advanced learner of Spanish. Today I would like to share with you my “Five Secrets to Becoming Fluent in Spanish.”

First, there is no secret to becoming fluent in any language. Granted, some methods work faster than others, however it still takes an estimated 3 hours of study and practice every day for 10 years to go from absolute beginner to near native fluency.

Not everyone wants to invest the time it takes to become completely fluent, so my second tip is to get clear in your mind what level of Spanish you’d like to reach, and then set specific and achievable goals for reaching that level of Spanish.

Thirdkeep it fun! Many people burn out quickly because learning a language becomes all work and no fun. Watch Spanish videos. Listen to Spanish music. Read Spanish news that interests you. Build your Spanish vocabulary in a way that is fun for you.

The fourth key is the importance of using the language from the very beginning. If you only know 100 Spanish words and a few verbs in the present tense, start speaking Spanish to everyone in order to make many mistakes … that’s how we learned our first language, and that’s how we learn a new language.

Fifth, check out the following list of programs and websites that I think are the most helpful for learning Spanish … they are listed in no particular order. Some are free, and some can be very expensive, so proceed as you wish. Also, be sure to go to my Spanish Words and Resources page to take advantage of the FREE resources there. – My favorite Spanish podcast. This link is to the Latino Spanish site, but you can also listen to the Spain Spanish program. You can get portions of these podcasts in iTunes for free to try them out, but if you want the entire audio program it is $14 per month. For $23 per month you get full access to the audios, PDF files, grammar exercises, etc. – This podcast is very well done, it is a British guy and his Colombian wife; you can listen to podcasts free, or pay a fee to get greater access. – This program is similar to the program above in that it was created by a British guy whose partner is a native Spanish speaker … they have some nice free audio and other resources, however the Spain Spanish accent is not the most commonly used throughout the world. – A good site for improving vocab, and there is a phone app that you can use. – A very helpful site, free videos in Spanish for various levels (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced), and the videos are accompanied by a text translation. I have downloaded many of their videos to my iTunes and iPod/iPhone.  – Destinos Spanish educational telenovela, it is a bit dated but very helpful and free to everyone; go to this site and click on “Watch” at the top. – Lots of people (especially youngsters) use this sites for the vocabulary quizzes and verb drills. – In my opinion, hands down the best site for finding all of the conjugations of all the Spanish verbs, plus there is plenty of additional information on this site that is very helpful. – Hundreds of videos organized by learner level and Spanish country accent, this is a nice site that costs $10 per month to use. – Univision is the most trusted news source in the Latino community, and this link goes to the latest news stories for Latin America; listening to the news in Spanish is a great way to improve your ability to hear Spanish. – BBC is very similar to NPR in the United States (and unfortunately NPR does not have a Spanish language version), and this link takes you to the latest news stores for Latin America. – Another free site that asks you to contribute to the cause by reviewing other submissions … this site contains many helpful exercises. – Benny is pretty well-known in the polyglot community and he emphasizes “speak from day one,” and he encourages you to work on becoming “fluent” in a language in as little as 3 months; he has written a few books, but the real value of this site is the language community as well as the email newsletter that includes many language learning links. – Pimsleur was my favorite program for a long time, however it became less useful to me when I reached intermediate level (which is about as far as Pimsleur will take you). Pimsleur is great at teaching you to speak Spanish, and since it is all audio and there are no books, you can use it anywhere (such as while exercising, driving down the road, etc.) In early 2015 Pimsleur released a level 5 Spanish program, and I purchased the download of the MP3 files for only $120 (the CDs are much more expensive). Sometimes you can borrow Pimsleur from your local library, so I encourage you to check it out. – Everybody knows about Rosetta Stone, one of the world’s most popular language learning programs. Most people believe that extensive marketing makes it so popular, but I believe it is popular because it makes building your vocabulary fun. (I completed all 5 levels of Rosetta Stone Latin American Spanish). – This little company fearlessly claims to be better than Rosetta Stone, and the program is equally as pricey. I own the two highest levels of Fluenz, and it has some of the best writing drills that I have ever found. Also, in Fluenz there is an English speaking instructor that clarifies grammar, vocabulary, etc., in contrast to the Rosetta Stone total immersion system where nothing is explained in English. – A very nice news site made for language learners that I recently discovered; to learn Spanish, go into the menu and click on Spanish Text Sets – My friend Julio and I created this site to provide entertaining and informative audiobooks, podcasts, and other products that help native English speakers learn Spanish. – Last but not least, our very own site where you can find numerous resources that will help you learn English, teach ESL (English as a Second Language), learn Spanish, and be Empowered.

Theory of Spanish Relativity

While listening to Wayne Dyer recently, I learned that just ONE IDEA is enough to make a dramatic improvement in my life.  Just one thought, one insight, one new direction, one idea can change my life for the better.

That’s probably why I feel compelled to keep writing a weekly email to all my amigos.  I have no idea how many people actually read what I send, but I believe that if just one thing said, one time, somehow or another helps just one of us to improve our Spanish, it is all worth it.  So here (in so many words) is the one thing I would like to say today.

For most of us, fluency is the goal.  However, many language learning experts say that the later in life that you start on the second-language path, the less likely it will be that you become fluent.  The key issue is time-on-task … when we were children, we had seemingly all the time in the world to learn another language, but as adults we have many competing priorities.  It’s really not about capacity to learn as we get older, although mental functioning does change somewhat over time, but in reality the key issue is how much time and opportunity we have to learn.  And the good news is that language learning is good for the mind NO MATTER when you start the process, and here is an article that supports that fact:

And the ONE THING that I would like to share with you today is that YOU can and should define what fluent looks like for you, because you don’t have to rely on, or be bound by, what someone else defines as fluent.  If Spanish fluency is defined as having the same grasp and command of Spanish as I have of English, well I can tell you right now that it is highly unlikely (save an act of God) that I will ever achieve that type of fluency in Spanish.  I’m not an English scholar, but I feel that I understand English pretty well … and since it has taken me 50 years to get to this point with English, which includes near complete immersion in the English language for 50 years, then by reason it would take the same amount of time and immersion experience to get to the same level of Spanish mastery.  Do I need to leave everything and everyone, move to a small Spanish-speaking village in Central America, and hope to live to be 100 years old?  I think so, because that is about what it would take to get to the same level in Spanish that I now have in English … and it might take even longer since I might not find Catholic nuns in that small Spanish-speaking village to make sure (by discipline, piercing stare, ruler, etc.) that I learn my lessons.

So what does it mean to be fluent?  Here are some dictionary definitions:

  • Merriam-Webster – Capable of using a language easily and accurately
  • Cambridge Dictionary – When a person is fluent, they can speak a language easily, well and quickly

Goodness gracious!  By those definitions, I am not sure that I am even fluent in English!!

How about this one:

  • – Able to speak or write a specified foreign language with facility

I like that one … able to speak “with facility.”  What does that mean?  Who knows, so I may as well claim it and tell the world that I can speak Spanish with facility!

In one sense, I have already achieved what I set out to do with Spanish … that is, I already have the ability to help two people communicate with each other – one that speaks only Spanish, the other that speaks only English.  I may not be the best interpreter in the world, but I am already an interpreter.  So for me, everything from now on is gravy … whatever more Spanish I can learn will only make me a better interpreter, or should I say intérprete.

So define for yourself what fluent looks like, if in fact fluency is your goal.  If a few Spanish sentences roll off your tongue fluidly, then you should be heartened by the fact that you were fluent in that moment.  Fluency is only a matter of degree, and you are somewhere on that fluency scale with everyone else who is learning Spanish.  And that’s my THEORY OF SPANISH RELATIVITY.

The “Secret” to becoming Fluent in Spanish

Last night nine of us Spanish enthusiasts celebrated 1 year of meeting at Mestizo to speak and hear Spanish. It was a fun evening. And this morning I discovered something interesting … it was exactly 2 years ago on the first Tuesday in February that I began learning Spanish; that was the first night of my adult education class in Beginner Spanish at East High School.

Which brings me to the topic for today: For as long as you enjoy the Spanish language, it is important to remain positive and upbeat about your progress toward fluency. Yes, set some aggressive goals and mark your milestones, but don’t let your goals become unrealistic expectations that discourage you from continuing.

Notice I said, “For as long as you enjoy the Spanish language.” No one can force you to enjoy learning Spanish – it is something you either enjoy, or you don’t. If you don’t enjoy it, I’m thinking that you should find something else to do, find something you enjoy doing.

But if you genuinely enjoy the Spanish language, keep moving forward … even if it means you stopped for awhile, and now find yourself starting over … even if it means taking baby steps for awhile … even if it seems that you are not progressing nearly as rapidly as you thought you would, or as rapidly as you would like. At the very least, you’re moving around a few neutrons or protons or whatever in your brain on occasion, particles that you would not be moving around if you were not learning Spanish, and this language-learning-particle-movement has to be better than mindlessly watching TV, window shopping, or hoping that you win the lottery (which would require driving to another state just to buy a ticket).

Seriously though … be hopeful for rapid advancement, but at the same time be at peace with, and grateful for, gradual progress. Yeah, it is work … and it will take continual effort over a fair amount time to become fluent … but lots of people have done it, are doing it, and will do it. Us too!

Despite what some bloggers, hucksters, and snake-oil salesmen want you to believe …. language learning experts say that the process of becoming fluent in a second language requires time on task over several years, especially if you are not currently living in a Spanish speaking country. The more years you spend dedicated to the task, the more fluent you will be. (Me too! I may be saying “you,” but I am speaking to myself as well). SPEAK SPANISH AND HEAR SPANISH AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, and at the same time continue doing your grammatical studies and reading Spanish.

So today I am looking at what Spanish I think I need to learn next, and I am formulating some goals for the next year … then I will start making steps toward those goals …. and periodically I will gauge my progress …. and if necessary, I will re-assess and keep moving forward … and during the first week of February 2012, Lord willing I live that long, I will probably re-assess and continue. As the personal growth guru Anthony Roberts says, here are those 4 simple steps toward reaching something you desire … in our case, Spanish fluency:

1.Set a goal
2.Take action toward your goal
3.Periodically, assess the results of your actions
4.If necessary, change your approach and continue toward your goal

I do believe that there is an energy, or power, or spirit, or whatever you want to call it, that accompanies INTENT … that if you make it your INTENTION to be or do something, that somehow or another the right opportunities and people and whatnot will show up in your life to assist you in fulfilling your INTENTION.

¡Que le vaya bien!